Sunday, January 3, 2010

It's a New Year, Baby

How long does it take to make a cup of tea? The answer depends on whether or not you like burning the bottom of your tea kettle. I tend to “not like to”, so every time I have to leave the kitchen, I turn the stove off. Today it took me two and a half hours to boil water. Once I poured the water to brew, my 18 month old began tossing shoes down the grandfather clock. Finally, a half hour later, I made it back to the kitchen, found the tea cold, microwaved it and spilled it all over the floor.

Thus begins my tea party resolution for 2010. I decided to be formal with this, so I am using a template from Congress, H. Res 970, that seminal piece of legislation that made June 30th National Corvette Day.

Whereas I would like my tea hot, or at least lukewarm.

Whereas I would like to read a book whose protagonist is not a duck.

Whereas “I’m going to the gym” should not be a set up to a joke.

Now, therefore, be it resolved by me and….me..that March 1st, 2010 beings the official “find the extra hour” campaign.

Happy New Year, folks, but this year, I’ll be following the ancient Roman calendar. Yes, the New Year, and my resolution, begin March 1st. I need time to prepare.

First, you might wonder why I’ve gone public with my resolution. Usually, when I attempt something I’ll probably fail, I like to keep it on the down-low. But, I recently read some advice from Professor Richard Wiseman. You might know this British professor from his books, The Luck Factor or Quirkology, but his latest tips are from his book, 59 seconds. I like that title because with a resolution like mine, I really can’t spare 60.

Wiseman followed over 700 people and found only 12% kept their resolutions. These persistent few succeeded by following a method. You can read the full details on his site, but here are some highlights:

1) Break your goal into a series of steps, focusing on creating sub-goals that are concrete, measurable, and time-based…

2) Tell your friends and family about your goals, thus increasing the fear of failure and eliciting support…..

3) Regularly remind yourself of the benefits associated with achieving your goals by creating a checklist of how life would be better once you obtain your aim……

4) Expect to revert to your old habits from time to time. Treat any failure as a temporary set-back rather than a reason to give up altogether…..”

A few more including…

1) Make only one resolution, your chances of success are greater when you channel energy into changing just one aspect of your behaviour....

There are a few things I’ve stopped doing since I’ve become a parent, and I’d like to add them back into my life. The simplest way I think I can do this is to reclaim hour in each day for myself.

As I type this, I am faced with two conflicts. First, self-help and advice are anathema to this blog. I pride myself on offering as little practical help as possible. Second, an hour is a significant amount of time to spend on myself. I’m not sure I can afford it.

To address the first problem, I am creating a second blog that will chronicle my (and any readers’) attempts to find this hour. The second blog is now up and running and I highly suggest you don't waste too much time reading it. For those interested in wasting an hour, please, by all means, check it out. I 'm posting a link at the end of this post.

To finance the second issue, I am creating what I call a Composite Hour. If I find fifteen minutes, four times a day, I’m golden. It’s like buying an hour on lay-away.

I am going to keep track of my effort and see how many hours I can get over six months. For every hour I achieve, I’ll give a dollar to a woman’s shelter. This last part addresses a third subject, one you might be too polite to mention: if finding an extra hour for myself is my biggest challenge, I don’t have much to complain about.

And, I don’t.

Why am I waiting until March to start this resolution? Well, I checked, and there is no extra hour. Actually, there is, if I’m willing to wake up earlier. I remember reading that suggestion when I read Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff and I laughed hysterically. My eye started twitching, like Dreyfus in the Pink Panther. What doctor would tell a parent to wake up an hour earlier? To achieve happiness? Sleep is off limits. This will require some strategic thinking and shifts to my schedule.

I’m in training, you see, and need the next two months to become a lean, mean, efficiency machine. Just today I stocked up on frozen herbs and squares of pre-measured chopped garlic. Oh, the time I will save now that I won’t be chopping garlic. Add it up and I bet I’ll have enough time left over to fold laundry.

I am new to the world of doing something for a “good cause” and the donation to a woman’s shelter might be a bit like off-setting your carbon footprint when you fly. It doesn’t change the fact that what I am doing is self-centered. But that, alas, is the very point.

It was in a rare moment of self-centered reading that I came across a story in the New York Times, “Philadelphia to Handle Abuse Calls Different” (Dec. 30, 2009). The city has seen a 67% increase in domestic homicides since last January. Of the women who were killed, 21 had made a total of 178 calls to the police. Philadelphia police hope to improve the data they have when they investigate domestic violence calls, but the story spoke to a disturbing trend, besides a heartbreaking lapse in protection.

A fifteen year drop in domestic violence has come to a halt because of the recession—or in part because of it. The story cites a study released by the Mary Kay Ash Charitable Foundation that says 75% of the nation's domestic violence shelters have reported an increase in women seeking help in the past year, and 73% of these shelters, “attribute the rise to financial issues.”

At the same time, shelters are getting their funds cut. California cut $2 million from domestic violence shelter funding; West Virginia cut Legal Aid by 62%, and Illinois cut domestic violence funding by 75%.

Many of us might remember the news five years ago, when a government study found “murder the second most common cause of injury-related death for pregnant women after car accidents.” They speculated the numbers did not reprsent the full picture, and that was before the economic downturn.

So, while I try to find more time to myself, there are many women who need to get away, not from domestic chaos, but from domestic danger.

On that somber note, I introduce lunchboxmomhour, the search for the extra hour. I think of this second blog as a tangent and an experiment. I have no idea what shape it will take, or who will follow it. If lunchboxmom is turkey on ciabatta with pesto mayo, this lunchboxmomhour is pure BP&J.
The full name of the new, second blog is:

Ps- A very kind reader (probably my Dad) just asked how I will find more time for myself while maintaining a second blog. A fair question and I answer it in the comment section, but I think it's worth saying--I am as interested in the process of how to find this extra hour as in the hour itself. The second blog is a way to look into that-in a journal format, with an automatic archive. I might be crazy but I am not that crazy.


Anonymous said...

So, dear Sarah, please explain how you will actually find more time in your busy day when you are also maintaining a second blog?

Sarah Vander Schaaff said...

Is this from my Dad?
Yes, a fair question.
I will cut down on the time I spend on facebook.
The second blog is more of a running journal--something this first one is not, and I don't want it to be. It might be a series of short posts, or posts from other people at times. A blog has an automatic archive system--a time saver, really, for this kind of thing. We'll see.
It might be crazy but so was starting the first blog.
Most important, I am actually interested in the process of this experiment more than the hour itself--but I don't want to clutter this blog with that. This blog is for ideas.

Diana said...

Hi Sarah. When you find your second hour, let's start a book club. I need another thing to distract me from my goals that I started after reading your blog :)

Anonymous said...

I'm trying to remember what it was like to be the mom of a toddler and I found my memory to be lacking. I think it's because, in actuality, it went by in such a blur that I don't remember specifics. I mean, I have three grown children so I KNOW I must have raised them. We didn't adopt them from a wolf family after all...
When I had two little ones, then three, I was a homeschooling mom who didn't have a car at my disposal. We were a one car family living in the city. Going anywhere took advance planning and "borrowing" the car from my husband. I think that might be how I got things done. We didn't over commit. Heck, we didn't even commit. There were a couple of families in the neighborhood who we'd trade off children with, and that was that. We took a lot of walks. I played with them a lot and read with them a lot. I do remember taking one hour every day to do an aerobics video (and no I didn't wear leg warmers) and my kids either did it with me or played while I did it. They respected that time. Don't ask me why. Maybe they instinctively knew I needed it or I'd throttle them.
So what's my point? Not sure but I will say it's not as much about "finding" an hour as it is "taking" it and being consistent about using it for yourself. There will be inevitable interruptions/distractions, but hang tough. Less harried days are ahead.